pulling up to Pegasus Farm on a cold and snowy day in mid-February, you notice that the fields are snow-covered and the wildlife and plants all seem to be hibernating. It's quiet, serene and beautiful. Walk through the door where the offices and the indoor arena are housed, and the farm, suddenly comes alive and has plenty of activity to warm up the day.

HARTVILLE  Pulling up to Pegasus Farm on a cold and snowy day in mid-February, you notice that the fields are snow-covered and the wildlife and plants all seem to be hibernating. It’s quiet, serene and beautiful. Walk through the door where the offices and the indoor arena are housed, and the farm, suddenly comes alive and has plenty of activity to warm up the day.

A new horse is being exercised in the arena, volunteers are getting ready to do their daily routines around the farm and employees such as Melissa Howard are busy managing the everyday tasks involved with keeping the farm working. Howard is the volunteer coordinator at Pegasus.

She is talking with a group of volunteers who are sharing some coffee, talking and getting ready to start their regular tasks at the farm.

“Our volunteers are the heart of Pegasus; we couldn’t run the farm without them,” Howard said.

Pegasus Farm offers a variety of options for those looking for ways to volunteer in the community. The many indoor and outdoor volunteer activities will keep any volunteer busy.

Volunteers at Pegasus

There are 235 volunteers and about 140 come once a week or more. Howard said they always are looking for more people to help out with a variety of tasks including helping with classes, working with the horses, helping with the gardening, working in the office area and serving on the board of directors.

The mission at Pegasus Farm is to help maximize the potential of persons with disabilities and help them become independent, self-confident and well-rounded through equine activities with recreational, social and vocational support. It was started in 1985 by three Canton City School teachers who worked with individuals with disabilities. The teachers were looking for ways to provide more physical activity and recreation for their students.

Pegasus opened its doors in 1986 with five riders and two horses. Today, the organization serves 500 children and adults annually and has more than 30 horses on 123 acres.

“We have horses from all size ranges and participants from all age ranges. Our youngest participant is 3 years old and we have adults in their 80s come to ride in the horse program or ride a horse and carriage in the driving program,” Howard said.

 Volunteer Activities

The volunteers helping out on this particular morning are all U.S. military veterans, including Ron Gore of Louisville. Gore said he loves being around the horses and talking with the other veterans.

Gem Grooming and Ken Verbic also were among the group, and they were helping with the exercising and grooming of the horses. Howard said that all volunteers begin with an orientation and working with a mentor.

“The orientation includes doing the necessary paperwork and background checks, touring the farm, and they receive training on how to handle the horses. We don’t require that volunteers have horse experience because we do provide training for them. We also assign a mentor for the new volunteers to work with,” Howard said.

In addition to those already mentioned, there are many different types of volunteer activities offered at the farm, including helping with special events, working in the country store, helping with building and maintenance and serving on various committees.

Needed Donations

In addition to their need for volunteers, Pegasus relies on donations and grants. Nanci Miller, marketing and communications specialist at Pegasus, said they appreciate any type of donation.

“The price we charge for lessons doesn’t always cover our costs of operation,” Miller said.

“The donations help us keep the classes going. We are open to all sorts of donations, including paper products, batteries, farm supplies, saddles or anything that can help us keep our horses happy and healthy,” Miller said.

“The people we serve have any number of or a combination of disabilities. In addition to physical disabilities, there are participants that have emotional and developmental disabilities. We also work with at-risk youth. Nothing teaches character like the responsibility of taking care of a horse,” she said.

In addition to purchasing much of the equipment through various grants, Howard said one of the grants that the organization applies for every three years is from the Ronald McDonald Charities.

“The Ronald McDonald Charities also sponsor our horse show that we have every summer,” Howard said.

Young and Less Young Volunteers

Howard said that kids can start volunteering at Pegasus at age 12 and 13 but they have to be accompanied by an adult. After age 14, they can volunteer on their own. The oldest volunteer that helps at the farm, Doris Hershey, is 91

and has been volunteering for 18 years.

“I come three days a week to help in the gardens, with the laundry, I maintain the first-aid boxes and help repair the horse blankets,” Hershey said.

“I’m not really a horse person, so I help where I can with other tasks,” she said. “I could just stay at home, but who wants to do that. My philosophy is like the moss that grows in the gardens. Moss only takes what it needs to live and then gives the rest back so that other plants can live. I take from life only what I need and I like to give the rest back to help others,” she said.